The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said World Bank’s “extreme poor nation’’ rating of Nigeria was based on the large number of poor people living in the country.
Okonjo-Iweala made the clarification when she interacted with newsmen in Abuja on Thursday.
The World Bank President, Dr Jim Kim, on Wednesday in Washington, announced that Nigeria was among the world’s extremely poor countries.
The other countries that were also rated as Nigeria were India, China, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Kim had said “the fact is that two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“If you add another five countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, the total grows to 80 per cent of the extreme poor,” he said
Okonjo-Iweala explained that the number of poor people in a country irrespective of the country’s level of development was the parameter used to rate Nigeria among nations with high poverty level.
According to her, the phenomenon of large number of poor people is peculiar with middle-income countries which Nigeria belonged.
“Indian is a middle-income country, one of the largest economies in the world like Nigeria, is a big economy, but the largest number of poor people in the world reside in Indian, China and other places.
“Most middle-income countries, including Brazil have large number of poor people that is the reality of today and Nigeria is no exception.
“And when the World Bank president was talking he also talked about those countries. He mentioned that India is doing well and it has a large number of poor people,’’ she said.
“So, we should not try to single Nigeria out. The phenomenon we have in Nigeria is that we are growing but there are poor people everywhere,’’ she added
She advised that the focus of Nigerians now should be on the answers to the problem raised by the World Bank and what other countries were doing that Nigeria could learn from so as to improve.
“Nobody says that everything is fine but we are learning and where we make some progress like other countries, we should also acknowledge it,’’ she stressed.
She said that the Federal Government was making efforts in different areas of the nation’s economy to reduce poverty and improve living standards of the people.
According to her, President Goodluck Jonathan has mandated four or five of the ministers to work together to formulate a social safety programme to be implemented for the benefit of the citizens.